The Effective Lawyer Episode 16: Handling Traumatic Brain Injury CasesLast updated on: May 17, 2021
Join the Zinda Law Group team as it discusses traumatic brain injury cases and the best methods for approaching them. How can you tell the full extent of the injury? How has the science behind TBI changed in recent years? How do you get an accurate picture of the client’s health and behavior? Zinda Law Group trial lawyers, Burgess Williams and Chrissy Hagen, share their thoughts and experience with Zinda Law Group founder, Jack Zinda, and Zinda Law Group Brand Manager, Kelsey Balzli, about this interesting and sensitive topic.
Discussed in this episode:
- How to get a full picture of a client’s health
- Learning the science behind TBI
- How to talk with the client’s friends and family members
- TBI as a process
Understanding what qualifies as a TBI
“In the last five to ten years alone, what qualifies as a traumatic brain injury (TBI) has changed significantly. I remember when I first started practicing law, an injury was a TBI only if it was very severe,” says Jack. “You could clearly tell from the initial impact that there was a catastrophic injury, potentially a fractured skull with parts of the brain missing even, and what qualifies as a TBI has changed a lot as technology and medicine has changed.”
“I completely agree. We’ve learned a lot about TBI over the last 20 – 30 years, and we really honed in on the lesser degree of injuries which are mild traumatic brain injuries,” Burgess says. “Those can occur with very little force. It can be an impact as low as 18 mph. It doesn’t even require you to have an impact if you are in a car with another vehicle. A sudden deceleration can cause the brain to impact the interior of the skull.”
Clinical definitions of TBI vary, but from a scientific standpoint, the brain can endure a permanent injury off of a lower impact event, which is something we never realized before the amount of research that’s been done over the last two decades.
Using Evidence to determine the existence of a TBI
“You want to look for loss of consciousness, but that’s not required,” Chrissy says. “Then, you want to look at mechanism of the injury, how the actual incident happened, which ways the body moved if it was a car crash or a truck crash, for example.”
You also want to look at initial symptoms. Some important symptoms include: stumbling of words, trouble recalling exactly what happened, headaches, blurred vision, and any other cognitive issues. The CDC has also published a comprehensive list of symptoms.
“We’ve had lots of cases where, at first, you meet the client and maybe they’ve had loss of consciousness, or maybe they’ve had an impact to the head, but what the injury ends up being is not clear in that initial meeting. You start talking to the client, and then you talk to the friends and family members, and they indicate that they’ve seen a change or a shift in this person’s behavior.”
Also, in many cases, as you talk with the client and their family members, you can tap specialists and experts who can show the extent of the brain damage. Still, the lay witnesses that can attest to the main damages are crucial for your case.
A TBI checklist
These cases also come down to the lawyer’s belief about the client’s injuries. You can’t find this out from your office, so there’s sort of a check list for this information: 1) talk with the client and discuss their symptoms; 2) look for loss of consciousness and those symptoms previously mentioned; 3) check the emergency room records and the EMS records; 4) talk with friends and family; 5) look for any physical evidence of an impact to the head.
“Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be a big impact to cause a traumatic brain injury.” Jack says.
ABOUT THE EFFECTIVE LAWYER
The Effective Lawyer teaches ambitious trial lawyers how to grow their skills and create a prosperous law firm. Using lessons learned by accomplished attorneys from around the country, we discuss lessons learned through their trials and tribulations. Our discussions cover a vast range of topics sought out by attorneys looking for advice, from depositions to how to market your law firm. In each show we cover a new topic that an ambitious attorney would want to better understand, while providing practical skills to improve their legal practice.
The show is hosted by Jack Zinda, Founder and Senior Trial Lawyer at Zinda Law Group. In less than 15 years, Jack and his team have grown Zinda Law Group from 3 attorneys to over 30, spanning several states and handling a variety of personal injury cases from gas explosions to truck accidents.